SANA (SARS-CoV-2 NAmur): an alternative method for diagnosing Covid-19

The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 virus and the growth of COVID-19 cases confront the public health system to a major crisis. The diagnostic capacity is key to the monitoring of the epidemic. However, shortage of specific detection kit components or lack of robotic platforms are seriously impeding the diagnostic throughput in numerous countries.

The UNamur supports the country with the development of a new Covid-19 diagnostic method

In collaboration with the Belgian reference laboratory at the KU Leuven, the UNamur developed an alternative method for diagnosing Covid-19. The main advantage of the new process is that it overcomes the use of reagents that are in short supply worldwide. The new method relies on a manual protocol for extraction of viral RNA, followed by RT-qPCR analysis. The technique was approved by the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP) on March 17, enabling the UNamur to support the reference laboratory and to accelerate the number of tests carried out in Belgium.

The SANA (SARS-CoV-2 NAmur) successful teamwork

The SANA lab recently passed the symbolic milestone of 5000 diagnostic tests thanks to the great teamwork of 165 volunteers! The SANA team members have many faces: receptionists, administrative support staff, logisticians responsible for sample collection, tracking and labelling, researchers each carrying out different steps of the process (inactivation of the virus infectivity, viral RNA extraction and RT-qPCR for SARS-CoV-2), managers who validate the results, process coordinators, communicators, etc.... In the coming weeks, the SANA team will pursue Covid-19 screening to support rest homes, homes for handicapped people and small hospital structures.

A STARTING PACK and DETAILED PROTOCOL are made available by the UNamur to guide every laboratory with expertise in molecular biology to develop a robust SARS-CoV2 screening plateform. The process is applicable in any molecular biology lab throughout the world and can be easily implemented while leaning on workforce and solidarity. 

Front-line contact: Virginie Bourguignon